The Pennsylvania toy maker who responded to a viral letter from a 6-year-old girl asking for a female version of the iconic Green Army Men figurines has debuted the female figurines for the first time.
Jeff Imel, the president of BMC Toys in Scranton, Pennsylvania, showed off the first prototypes of the female figurines Sunday at the Chicago Toy Soldier Show.
Imel was inspired to make the toys after receiving a letter this summer from Vivian Lord, a 6-year-old first grade student in Arkansas.
“Why do you not make girl army men[?],” Vivian wrote in her letter. “My friend’s mom is in the Army to[o] so why don’t you make them to[o]?”
Vivian's mom, Brittany Lord, told "Good Morning America" the family was on vacation in July when Vivian used tickets won at an arcade to collect Green Army Men figurines.
After intently playing with the toy soldiers, Vivian asked Lord, also mom to Vivian's older brother, why none of them were girls.
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"She wanted us to do a Google search to see if they did in fact exist because if they did she wanted us to get some," Lord recalled. "We could only find some pink ones and she quickly pointed out those were not women but just men in pink and Army men don’t wear pink."
As Vivian kept talking about it in the days after, Lord asked her daughter if she wanted to write a letter to toy companies.
"It wasn’t something we’d done before but I thought maybe she’ll get a lesson in speaking up and we’ll see if we get a response," Lord said about the letter Vivian ended up writing and sending to multiple toy companies.
BMC Toys, which Imel purchased in 2015, was the only company that sent a response.
At the time, Imel had been thinking about launching female Army figurines but wasn't sure there was enough demand in the market. When he saw Vivian's letter, he decided to make it happen.
"It was an easy response for me because I agreed with her," he said, noting his only hesitation for creating female versions had been the expensive and lengthy production that would be required, including creating a new mold.
"I’ve since heard from a lot of women have told me they wanted to have this toy when they were growing up," Imel said. "People have been very supportive, enough to make me know that this is a product that people want."
Imel plans to have the Green Army Women figurines available by Christmas 2020. They will come in four different military poses.
Vivian, of course, will be one of the first buyers.
"[I'm most excited] to set them up and play with them," she told "GMA." "It makes me so happy and proud."
Lord described her daughter as "wise beyond her years." She hopes kids are inspired by Vivan to speak up and that adults are inspired to listen.
"I think this is a great example of listening to kids because they see things that we don’t see," she said. "Things have always been that way and we just go with it and children with fresh eyes can see things the way they’re supposed to be."